Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

5 ways to give to charity without even trying

Five ways to benefit charities without costing you a dime.

5 ways to give to charity without even trying

February 28, 2018 Posted by | lifehack | , | Leave a comment

How to achieve your goals

Based on solid science, these tips actually work if you follow through ( I used a version of them to successfully get into a regular exercise habit). Worth keeping a copy for reference.

How to Get Better at Achieving Your Goals

Christine Carter follows these research-backed steps to turn her good intentions into successful achievements.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | behaviour, lifehack, psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Rules That Add Up to 100

Some fun, some useful.

August 23, 2017 |

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August 31, 2017 Posted by | lifehack | | Leave a comment

Nature’s navigation secrets

Simple and easy to remember — you never know when it will come in handy.

An Animated Guide to Nature’s Best Wayfinding Secrets

 | JULY 25, 2017 | Atlas Obscura

August 31, 2017 Posted by | lifehack | , | Leave a comment

Great diet tips

Little things can make a difference:

Diet Res-Illusions: Tips from the pros on how to lose weight

We make ’em, we break ’em. New Year’s diet resolutions fall like needles on Christmas trees as January goes on. Genes can work against us. Metabolism, too. But a food behavior researcher has tested a bunch of little ways to tip the scale toward success.

His advice: Put it on autopilot. Make small changes in the kitchen, at the grocery store and in restaurants to help you make good choices without thinking.

“As much as we all want to believe that we’re master and commander of all our food decisions, that’s just not true for most of us,” said the researcher, Brian Wansink. “We’re influenced by the things around us — the size of the plate, the things people are doing … the lighting.”

He heads the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, has written books on taking control of food choices, and has had government and industry funding.

Some tips are gimmicks, and some may not work as well for you as they did in tests. But they “make a lot of sense” and many are backed by other studies, said one independent expert, Dr. William Yancy, a weight specialist at Duke University’s diet and fitness center.

To start: Make goals that are SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, Yancy said. Instead of resolving to eat better, plan how to do it, such as having chips once or twice a week instead of every day. Rather than vague vows to get in shape, resolve to walk half an hour every day after dinner.

Other tips from Wansink and research to support them:


Redo the pantry to put healthy stuff in front. You’re three time more likely to eat the first food you see than the fifth one.

Tidy your kitchen before eating. Women asked to wait in a messy kitchen ate twice as many cookies as women in the same kitchen did when it was organized and quiet.

Redo the fridge. Even though it shortens shelf life, move fruits and vegetables out of crisper drawers and put them at eye level. Keep good foods in clear bags or containers and less healthy things like leftover pizza in aluminum foil. In one study, people who put fruits and vegetables on the top shelf ate nearly three times more of them than they did the week before.

Keep no food out except a fruit bowl. Researchers photographed 210 kitchens to see whether countertop food reflects the weight of women in each home. Those who left breakfast cereal out weighed 20 pounds more than neighbors who didn’t; those with soft drinks out weighed 24 to 26 pounds more. Those with a fruit bowl weighed 13 pounds less.


Beware the glassware. Use narrower glasses, pour wine when the glass is on the table rather than in your hand, and use a glass that doesn’t match the color of the wine. A study found that people poured 12 percent more wine when using a wide glass, 12 percent more when holding the glass, and 9 percent more when pouring white wine into a clear glass versus a colored or opaque one. Pour any glass only half full — this cuts the average pour by 18 percent.

Use smaller plates and pay attention to color. Big plates make portions look small. In one study, people given larger bowls took 16 percent more cereal than those given smaller bowls, yet thought they ate less. People also take more food if it matches the color of their plate. But they eat less when the tablecloth or placemat matches the plate; it makes the food stand out more.

Keep the TV off and eat at a table. A study of dinner habits of 190 parents and 148 children found that the higher the parents’ body mass index (a ratio of height and weight), the more likely they were to eat with the TV on. Eating at a table was linked to lower BMI.

Try small portions of “bad” foods. Eat a bite or two, then distract yourself for 15 minutes to see if you feel satisfied. A study gave people different portions of chocolate, apple pie and potato chips and had them rate hunger and craving before and 15 minutes after eating. Bigger portion folks ate 103 calories more, but didn’t feel more satisfied than those given less.


Divide your shopping cart in half. Use a partition, purse or coat for a visual cue to fill at least half of your cart with fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. In two studies, half of shoppers were given divided carts and told to put healthier items in front. They spent more on produce than those given regular shopping carts.

Be careful when buying in bulk . A study found that people who bought big containers of chips, juice boxes, cookies, crackers and granola bars ate half of it within the first week — twice as fast as they normally would. Tip: Repackage into single-serve bags or containers, or store it out of reach, such as the basement.

Eat an apple first. People given a sample of an apple at the store increased spending on fruits and vegetables versus those given no sample or a cookie. A healthy snack may prime people to buy better foods, not the fast, processed foods they gravitate to when shopping hungry.

Circle every island in the produce section. In a study of 1,200 shoppers, every minute spent in the produce section meant $1.80 more in fruit and vegetable sales.


Let the light shine. Researchers checked sales receipts of patrons at four casual chain restaurants. Those in brighter rooms were more likely to order healthier fish, vegetables or white meat rather than fried food or dessert. Diners in dim rooms ordered 39 percent more calories.

Sit near a window. Researchers analyzed 330 diners’ receipts after they left. The closer they were to a window, the fewer foods and alcoholic drinks they ordered.

Ask for a to-go box in advance. Half of diners in a study were told before they ordered that the portions were big and that they could have a doggie bag. Those told in advance wound up taking more food home. To-go boxes encourage people to eat about a third less.


Marilynn Marchione can be followed at

February 28, 2017 Posted by | behaviour, diet, health, lifehack | , | Leave a comment

Draw it to remember it

Good trick to know.

Here’s the Memory Trick That Science Says Works — You draw it

Jeffrey Kluger | April 22, 2016

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April 26, 2016 Posted by | brain, learning, lifehack | , | 1 Comment

Tricks to keep you on your diet

It’s all in your mind. Really.

The Strawberry Ice Cream Diet: Hacking Your Memories for a Skinnier You

The science of keeping that New Year’s resolution

Julia Shaw | January 4, 2016 | Scientific American

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January 9, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, diet, lifehack, psychology | , | Leave a comment

How to Work With Others

Great tip from Wired magazine’s November 2011 edition:

Looking out for number one is not a great survival strategy. We know this intuitively or we wouldn’t tip waiters or stop at red lights. Game theorists discovered years ago that cooperative strategies usually produce the most success. Computer models show that the top dog isn’t the most ruthless; it’s the one who reciprocates. Math proves the golden rule.

There were conditions, of course. If you’re “nice”—that is, if you cooperate—but your competition responds with lying or cheating, you have to retaliate. (Forgiveness is part of the equation, too, though. Slap the wrist and move on.)

The theory got more support when evolutionary biologists started noticing how important cooperation is to evolution. “If I am willing to let others have a slightly bigger share of the pie, then people will want to share pies with me,” wrote Harvard researcher Martin Nowak. “Generosity bakes successful deals.” In other words, a social group that plays by these rules becomes a kind of superorganism. (Like an ant colony—or Twitter.) That’s especially true in a globally integrated world. So unless you’ve got a ship packed for Mars, best to play nice.—K. C. Cole

January 5, 2012 Posted by | behaviour, lifehack | , | Leave a comment

How to Gain Trust

Great tip from Wired magazine’s November 2011 edition:

Trust is something you earn. And to earn it, you must slowly and painstakingly build a relationship based on mutual admiration and respect. Only kidding! Trust can totally be faked. The key, as researchers at Vrije University Amsterdam discovered, is in convincing others that you have a high level of self-control. The researchers conducted a series of experiments on married couples as well as complete strangers in an effort to determine how trust forms. In each instance, people who exhibited self-control—who decided against buying CDs when they were short on cash, for example, or who showed up at places on time—were deemed trustworthy. So if you want people to trust you, just tell someone you are on a diet, then pass on dessert. Or promise to do a favor for them, then do it. And be on time. It works. Trust us. —Erin Biba

January 5, 2012 Posted by | behaviour, lifehack | | Leave a comment

How to Ace a Test

Great tip from Wired magazine’s November 2011 edition:

Ace a Test

You’ve studied. You’ve taken practice exams. You’ve gotten a good night’s sleep. there’s only one thing left to do before that big test: Get some exercise. According to experiments conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the best things you can do to prep your brain for an intellectual challenge is to get in a perfectly timed small workout. Here’s how to sweat your way to a better score.—Brendan I. Koerner

Consider a Treadmill
You need to get your heart racing to sharpen your cognition, but you don’t want to risk overtaxing your mind. So avoid athletic pursuits against opponents—even virtual ones. One study found that treadmill workouts improve mental performance but vigorous sessions of Wii games do not.

Hit the Sweet Spot
Avoid either under- or overexertion: Taking it too easy will leave you as dull as when you started, and overdoing it will make you too tired to focus. Aim for a heart rate of about 60 percent of max. Use a heart-rate monitor to make sure you keep that same exertion plateau for a full 20 minutes.

Timing Is Everything
The cognitive benefits don’t kick in the moment you hop off the treadmill. Ongoing research suggests it will be anywhere from five to 20 minutes before they take effect. So time your workout to end about 20 minutes before the proctor yells, “Go!”

The cognitive boost can be short-lived. After about 50 minutes researchers saw a return to baseline. So tackle the hardest questions first—remember, they’re often placed at the end of each section.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | lifehack | , | Leave a comment